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NASA, Commercial Partnerships Accelerate Quickly After Authorization Act

By | November 12, 2010

      [Satellite TODAY Insider 11-12-10] NASA has wasted no time in seeking commercial launch partners since the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law in October.
           Over the past week, NASA has entered into Modular Space Vehicle (MSV), Rapid Response Space Works (RRSW) and heavy-lift launch vehicle development contracts with 16 different commercial entities. The RRSW and MSV contracts share a maximum value of $500 million.
          NASA, acting as a contracting agent for the U.S. Department of Defense‘s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, awarded contracts to five companies Nov. 11 to develop multi-mission the MSVs. ATK Space Systems, Miltec Corp., Northrop Grumman Systems, PnP Innovations and Sierra Nevada Corp. will provide support for the ORS office at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., for a period of five years, while NASA will help facilitate planning, acquisition and operations.
          While all five companies received development deals, Northrop Grumman was specifically tasked for the multi-mission modular bus development order and Sierra Nevada Corp. was awarded a separate multi-mission modular payload development task order.
          Separately, NASA Nov. 8 selected 13 companies for potential contract awards that begin work on the agencies efforts to develop a next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, including: Aerojet General Corp., Analytical Mechanics Associates, Andrews Space, ATK, Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Orbital Sciences Corp., Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Science Applications International Corp., SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and United Space Alliance.
          Those awards will be valued at a total of about $7.5 million, with a maximum individual contract award of $625,000. Each company will conduct systems analysis and trade studies for evaluating system concepts, propulsion technologies and affordability.   
          "These trade studies will provide a look at innovative launch vehicle concepts, propulsion technologies and processes that should make human exploration missions more affordable," Doug Cooke, associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, said in a statement. "If we are to travel beyond low-Earth orbit, industry’s collaboration is essential to reduce the cost associated with our future exploration goals and approaches and make the heavy-lift vehicle affordable to build and fly."
           Separately, NASA also announced that it conducted a successful test firing of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 space launch vehicle at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
          Orbital and its engine supplier, Aerojet, test-fired the engine to support NASA’s COTS program contract to enable commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station, issued to both Orbital and SpaceX in December 2008. Orbital is under contract with NASA to provide eight cargo missions to the space station through 2015.
          The test is the first in a series of three firings. A joint operations team and other NASA engineers will now conduct an in-depth data review of all subsystems in preparation for a 50-second hot-fire acceptance test. An exact date for the test has not been scheduled, but NASA said it would happen “several weeks from now,” according to a statement on the agency’s website. A third hot-fire test at Stennis is planned to verify tuning of engine control valves.
          In addition to the Orbital Taurus 2 vehicle, NASA said it also is conducting tests on Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s RS-68 rocket engine at the Stennis center.

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